Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Testimony to the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee

Today I'm testifying before the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee about congressional and legislative redistricting, particularly as it relates to Anne Arundel County. My testimony to the Commission is below...

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My name is Brian Griffiths. I am Chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans, Northeast Regional Vice-Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, and a Contributing Editor at Red Maryland. My remarks today do not represent the position of any of those organizations, and reflect my personal capacity as a resident of Pasadena here in Anne Arundel County.

Before I begin, let me point out how disappointing it is that this hearing was scheduled at this time. This hearing in Anne Arundel County is the only hearing that begins at 4 PM on a weekday. This is an insult to the voters of Anne Arundel County and could be a potential inhibitor to citizen input and participation in this important matter. It is even more disappointing considering that two members of this Commission are residents of this county.

Unfortunately, the presence of the general public at this hearing today is nothing more than a formality. There is no reason for the average citizen to believe that comments made here today will have any relevant impact to the machinations and decision-making of this Commission. The Governor has appointed to this Commission members who will uphold nothing more than the status quo, providing us with results similar to the shameful 2001 Redistricting Process. It is the Governor’s right, but that does not mean it is good policy or in the best interests of the people of this state.

The redistricting plans introduced by Governor Glendening in 2001 were nothing short of disgraceful and embarrassing to the people of Maryland. Districts were drawn with absolutely no regard to communities, district lines, or commonality of interests among the constituents of that district. We are left with the residual effects of those poorly made decisions to this day, with Maryland recognized as having three of the fifteen most Gerrymandered districts in the country. Even now, my parents live in the 3rd Congressional District. Their polling place, only a mile away, is in the 1st Congressional District. They have to drive through the 2nd Congressional District to get there.

What was done to Anne Arundel County in Governor Glendening’s Congressional and Legislative Redistricting plans was nothing short of ridiculous. Anne Arundel County was, again, portioned among four separate Congressional districts. At present, Anne Arundel County is represented by a Congressman from Prince George’s County, and three Congressmen from Baltimore County. Anne Arundel County has not had a resident Congressman in over 20 years! Who is standing up for the interests of Anne Arundel County at the federal level? Despite being a county whose population could support its own Congressional District, Anne Arundel County has not been represented in Congress for two decades. As one of the largest counties in Maryland, this is not acceptable.

The Glendening Legislative Redistricting Plan was worse. Anne Arundel County was carved into different sections and forced to share legislative districts with surrounding counties. Particularly most shameful were the six precincts from Baltimore County, which were attached to the 31st District specifically to target Senator Norman Stone. The flagrant violations of both the State Constitution and common sense were incredible, and I for one was relieved when the Court of Appeals appropriately threw out the plan.

There is but one way that this Commission and Governor O’Malley can do what is in the best interests of the people of the state of Maryland. That is to ensure that the Congressional and legislative district lines introduced and passed into this state are fair. By fair, I mean geographically compact districts, which are composed of communities and constituencies, which share a common interest. Additionally, for the House of Delegates, these districts would provide for 141 single-member districts to ensure that each citizen is represented fairly and equally in the House of Delegates. Districts composed in this manner will ensure representation that is truly representative of Maryland. Unfortunately, neither I nor a majority of the people of Maryland have any confidence in this Commission or this Governor to do the right thing.

As you continue your hearings and make your recommendations to the Governor, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you really have only two options to choose from: do as the voters would hope you would do, and act in their best interests to recommend districts that are fair and equitable; or do as the voters expect you will do, which is to act in whatever you think is the best interests of the Maryland Democratic Party.

The people will be watching. Thank you.

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